Ashley is one of the most authentic people I know. Her story reminds me of a lesson I learned while reading Eleanor’s Story, an autobiographical book about a girl growing up in Germany during WWII. Eleanor’s experiences were filled with darkness and the only thing that helped her get by was the little moments: a bird singing, or her mother picking flowers and putting them in a vase. I think Ashley’s story is really valuable (and it’s almost like she’s saying my words and feelings). I really believe that little bright moments make a vast difference.
I always anticipated becoming a mom. Not because I had any real experience with babies or kids, but I just felt like it was something worth doing with my life. After being married for roughly ten months, my husband and I decided that we were ready for a baby. I really felt like our relationship was in a good spot and a baby fit perfectly into our plans.
My pregnancy was normal and had the typical problems. I definitely had back pains and constant heartburn and sleeping at night was impossible, but really I had a good pregnancy without any real difficulties. I remember thinking at about seven months that I was okay being pregnant because I sure wasn’t ready to go through labor. By nine months pregnant, I was more than ready to have the baby come out. Again my labor was fairly straightforward. I was in pain and exhausted then I got my epidural and didn’t feel a thing after that.
Our daughter entered the world at 1:09pm. To me, this was my first moment of motherhood. Not when I saw my baby but when she cried for the first time. Nothing was more beautiful in that moment then her cry. My first thought was, it was all worth it. All the pain, sleepless nights, stress, planning, worrying, every one of those hardships were worth it to bring this baby here to us. My husband and I both cried for the first twenty minutes of her life just over come with joy that she was here.
Now that my daughter is now approaching two, motherhood means something completely different than that precious moment when she was first born. Motherhood is hard. It is demanding. It is sacrificing. It is humbling. I really struggled adjusting to being a mom. I remember the fist six weeks of being home as some kind of emotional nightmare. I did not expect to look pregnant when coming home (people told me to but I was not ready for the reality of what my body would look like). My husband and I decided I would stay at home and raise our daughter. I went from teaching 250 kids in school to spending my days with my non-talking daughter.
My husband went back to school and his part time job. I felt isolated and alone as all these changes were occurring in our lives. I also felt a lot of pressure to breast feed because that is what is best for the baby but no one talked about what would be best for me. She ate every two hours, night and day, for the first seven months of her life and refused a bottle and a binky. My milk was a constant struggle for me and I almost lost it three times in the first five months of breast-feeding. Something that was supposed to bring a special bond with my daughter made me feel limited and stressed.
I feel like motherhood is divided into two camps; those who see it through rose-colored glasses and are always promoting how wonderful motherhood is and those who constantly talk about the difficulties and trials of motherhood. In reality motherhood is a mixture of both. It took me a few months to realize that motherhood is not all rose-colored glasses. It is hard. You have to learn to put your child before your own needs on every level. Your child depends on you for life. I think moms try to clue you in with little hints of sleep now or this worked for me but nothing can prepare you for becoming a mom. It is hard and it is okay to feel that way. It is okay to be frustrated and be sick of changing diapers. I realized that cuddling my daughter all day everyday isn’t all that great. That sounds so bad, but sometimes I really wanted to take a shower or to go to the store and not stress about her needing to feed in the middle of the store.
I felt liberated realizing that I could love my daughter while still struggling with being a mom.
You can’t discredit the rose-colored glass-wearing moms though. There are moments when being a mom is amazing. It will blow you out of the water. Hearing my daughter cry for the first time was amazing. It made pregnancy worth it. The first time she really laughed, full belly laugh (at her dad’s batman voice), it made those first six weeks worth it. The first time she cried “Mommy” in the night, it made all those sleepless nights worth it.
Motherhood is about small moments that make all the hard stuff worth it. It sometimes is tedious and something validating doesn’t happen everyday, but when those moments come, it is all worth it. My experience is not different or unique from a lot of women, and in a lot of ways my experience has been typical, but I felt like I had to be happy about it all the time. I felt like being realistic about what I was feeling or going through made me a bad mom or just bad at being a mom. It took a lot of time by myself while feeling like I had no one to talk to about this to realize that most moms probably struggle at one point with being mom.
I think I fall into a third camp of moms who see both sides of motherhood, the rose-colored glasses and the trials of motherhood, but they don’t know how to convey the hardships without undermining the positives. Being a mom is the hardest thing I have ever done but to this day, I still feel like it is worth doing with my life and one of the most rewarding jobs out there!